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#3 The Vision of Christ: Part 1

August 12, 2008

As we come to this lesson this morning I am brought back to the days when people were asking the question: “I wonder what it would be like to see Jesus face to face?”  So many of my friends from my college days would say things like, “When I see Jesus I’m gonna walk right up to Him and do such and such”.

 

But I believe the reality of seeing the risen Lord will be unlike anything we could ever imagine.  In this book John: who leaned upon Christ’s breast, is given a vision of our Risen Lord and we will see how he reacts.

 

Most people live in a fantasy world when it comes to spiritual things.  Their minds are full of speculation and preconceptions.  They cling to things they have been “taught” without turning to the Law and to the Testimony to see if these things are true.  These speculations are usually the fruits of a fertile imagination.  But John jerks us right back into reality when, through him, we are confronted with the Living Lord of lords.

 

 Our text is found in (Rev. 1:9-10).  Let’s follow our brother as he takes us on his wonderful journey.  He begins in verse 9 saying … “I, John, your brother.”  I think this is important to note.  Yes John was an Apostle.  Yes he walked with Jesus.  But he was also human.  He had feelings like us.  The scriptures tell us that Elijah, the powerful man of god was a man of like passions as we.  John was too.

 

I am not attempting to diminish his position as Apostle but to show you that he is someone we can relate to.  And I believe he is doing the same thing as he says: “I, John, your brother.”  Isn’t it wonderful to have such a loving, caring bother who, through his gospel, his three epistles and now here in Revelation, seeks to instruct us in the truth?  He is like an older, wiser brother who wants his little brothers and sisters to be ok.  He wants us to be firmly established in the truth!

 

He knows what troubles can befall Christians as he was even then, at this writing, suffering for the sake of his beloved Lord Jesus Christ.  This is why he says, not only that he is our brother in the faith, but also a …fellow partaker in the tribulation…  He was not living some “above it all” life in a beautiful home where the buffalo roam and the skies are not cloudy all day.  Instead he was suffering tribulation.  He had been banished, exiled to a lonely rocky island.  This was prison. 

 

Historians tell us that it was the common practice of the Roman Empire to send exiles to the most rocky and desolate islands.  Was John alone on this island?  Was Patmos a penal colony?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that exile is not a good thing.

 

I remember in the 8th grade reading about a man who had been exiled from his fellow human beings.  He had expressed his desire to be separated from humanity and had been sentenced to be imprisoned on a small ship where he was to remain secluded.  He was allowed no contact with those who ran the ship, was not allowed to see them or speak to them.  The ship came to port only at night and he was locked below.  This doesn’t sound like a pleasant experience to me.

 

Now consider John’s day where there were no cell phones, no grocery stores, nothing!  He was literally a prisoner on an island with possibly the bare necessities for survival!  And yet he was not alone.  Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you!”  Even in the worst of circumstances, Jesus is with us.  Even in tribulation!

 

Now tribulation is an uncomfortable thought.  We have no desire to suffer, to go through trials and tribulations.  But this is something that we really must be prepared for.  Why?  Paul stated “matter-of-factly” in (2 Tim 3:12) “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

 

There is no misunderstanding what he said.  And if you have ever taken a stand for the truth you know he’s right.  John had stood firm in the faith and he had been deported to Patmos.  Roman Emperors considered themselves to be gods and demanded to be worshiped as such.  And they were not keen on competition.

 

But this is true of unredeemed mankind in general.  Sinful man hates God and will not stand for any ‘holier than thou’ talk.  Jesus was right when he said that sinful man will not come to the light lest his evil deeds be exposed.

 

I used to wonder why bars were so dark.  But it is specifically because they are dens of iniquity.  Men do their deeds in the dark so that no one will see them!  They hate the light because light exposes the evil they love so much!

 

And they hate the truth which is like light.  When you speak the truth of the word of God, men cringe inside but outwardly they lash out in a tirade of blasphemy.  They cannot bear the cutting of the two edged sword of the Spirit!  Therefore their curses are, in reality, shouts of agony as God’s truth cuts them to the bone!

 

 

But as Keith has said, “They don’t shout at God but at you, the messenger!”  They cannot see God but you are right there before them and they take all of their rage out on you!  But we still have it quite good here in America.

 

Consider the suffering that is going on in foreign lands.  It is interesting that we can still worship God openly here in our country.  But as I have stated before, our freedoms are being chipped away at by evil men who will not bow the knee to God and His truth in this present world.

 

Perhaps one day we too will have to give our lives to hold to our confession of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.  But in places like the Sudan people are killed outright for Jesus’ sake.  To be a Christian in that place is against the law and the penalty is death.  To be sure there are other places where men die for their faith.

 

But I believe that Jesus said it best in (John 16:33).  He had warned the disciples of His imminent death on the cross.  He had told them that He would rise again and return to Heaven.  He warned them of the coming persecution and then He said in (John 16:33) “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.”

 

Though this world seems to be falling apart at the seams: though men hunt you and persecute you, thought they may banish you: you rest your souls in Me.  Remember that I am going to prepare a place for you.

 

In a little while you will inherit a home not made with human hands.  There you will have perfect peace.  There you will be safe in My arms.  Then he says this: “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  And one day you will be set free from this world of darkness.  One day you will have perfect rest for your souls.

 

Paul said in (Ro 8:18) “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  They pale into insignificance when seen in the light of the glory of God.  Is it any wonder that men were able to suffer crucifixion, burning at the stake, being skinned alive or whatever other human torture that was inflicted upon them?

 

They knew that soon they would be with the Lord!  They did not fear those who could only kill the body and after that have nothing more they could do!  Instead they feared, reverenced, worshiped the God of heaven whose they were.  They even prayed for their persecutors.  Stephen exemplified the teaching of Christ.  He actually practiced what Jesus preached.

He loved his enemies and, following his Lord’s example, prayed for those who were stoning him to death saying, “Lord, do not hold this sin to their charge”.  Even in death he loved them and longed for their salvation!  Read Foxes book of Martyrs and see how men and women of God loved not their lives even to the death: how they suffered unspeakable torments for their faith in Christ. 

 

John too was suffering for His faith in Jesus Christ.  His exile is evidence of his steadfastness in the faith.  He knew his citizenship was in heaven where Jesus is and for him to live was Christ and to die was gain.  That he suffered tribulation proved that his was no charmed life.  And so he is our brother in tribulation, a fellow sufferer with us and we are fellow partakers with him of the kingdom

 

This again speaks of our true home.  We are children of the KING of kings.  Heaven is home.  We are strangers and aliens in this world of woe.  In (Heb 11:16) we read “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.”  God’s children desire above all to be with Him.  They long to be in that place where no sin can exist!

 

They long to be with Jesus Christ, He whom our soul loves!  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their god; for He has prepared a city for them.”  And our song is that of (So 6:3) I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine… (So 7:10) I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.”  Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called sons of God!

 

Consider these wonderful words of comfort that are found in (1John 3:2-3).  “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.  3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him (Jesus Christ) purifies himself, just as He (Jesus) is pure.”

 

So we are fellow partakers with John in tribulation, in the kingdom and in perseverance  Now I ask you: how can we be patient in tribulation?  How can we persevere in the faith when all around us is black with sin; when from within our own hearts come forth blasphemies and sins that we loath?

 

The writer of Hebrews answers.  It is by (2) fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (3) For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

 

 

Consider this passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans.  (Rom 5:1-5) In verse (1) he speaks of the grace in which we stand saying “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our lord Jesus Christ.  We are children of God solely because of Christ’s work on our behalf.

 

Paul has laid the groundwork in the previous 4 chapters speaking of our wanton sinfulness and the penalty due us.  He then moved on to declare the meritorious work of Christ!  The reason we stand at all is because of Him for apart from Jesus we can do nothing.

 

It is through Christ alone that we have a right standing before the Holy god of the universe whom we have spent a lifetime offending with our very presence.  We have been forgiven an un-payable debt.  We have been clothed in His righteousness: and “Therefore, having been justified by the God granted gift of faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand;

 

Now I want you to notice this next line… and we exult (that is; we glory, we boast, we rejoice, we are full of joy) in (or because of the) hope of the glory of God.  I ask you; are you exulting in hope of the glory of God?  Many people who call themselves Christians still have the same attitude they hand B.C.  Instead of exultation, instead of joy in the Lord there is only a plodding through life with no zest at all.

 

I ask you to look deep within your soul and see if there is any joy, any zest, any rejoicing in the Lord.  Do you exhibit the heart attitude of a Christian?  Or does your demeanor more exemplify the mind-set of the world?

 

Paul speaking to the church at Thessalonica exhorted them to live godly lives saying 16 Rejoice evermore.  And if you are truly thankful for the wonderful gift of salvation in Jesus Christ you will rejoice at each breath.  You will find reason to rejoice in everything that comes your way because you will see the hand of God in your life, directing all things for His glory and for your good.

 

Seeing your utter dependence upon Him for all that pertains to life and godliness you will 17 “Pray without ceasing.  18 In everything good and bad you will give thanks: and you will do so for this reason: FOR THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS CONCERNING YOU.”  You know that your Father in heaven loves you and will do what is best for you for this brings Him great glory!

 

 

And you rejoice when you consider the day Jesus Christ will return to bring you home.  Returning to Romans 5 Paul says, (3) And not only this, Not only have we been justified, not only have we obtained salvation in Christ Jesus, but we also exult in our tribulations, for this purpose: knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; a steadfast faith which is not easily swayed.

 

Continuing in verse 4 we see that … as you grow in perseverance, in your ability to remain firm in the faith you develop proven character; that is your faith has been tested and strengthened and now perseverance is part of you.  This established faith: this … proven character, builds hope; as you see the hand of God working in you to will and to do of His good pleasure and instead of kicking against the goads you bow before your Father and say “Thy Will Be Done”.  Such a heart attitude pleases your Father in Heaven and brings Him glory!

 

Verse (5) says: and hope does not disappoint, because in all of these things we see that the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  And so in the midst of trials and tribulations we have an anchor for our soul which will not give way even to the strongest wind.

 

John, our brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, which are part of the Christian life: was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.  He had been faithful to the truth, faithful to Jesus Christ and would not bow: would not compromise even if it meant death.  And he was exiled to this island for his stand of faith and also because it was here that God had chosen to give him the message that we have before us today!

 

Though he could not worship with his fellow believers, this did not sway him from communion with God.  In verse 10 John was doing just that, worshiping.  But this was not to be any ordinary time of worship.  He says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day,

 

John was caught up by the Holy Spirit like Ezekiel says often, that he was carried from place to place by the Spirit, and that the Spirit of the Lord came on him and showed him great and mighty things.  Under the control of the Holy Spirit he says: and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet  This reminds me of God’s revelation of Himself to the children of Israel on Mount Sinai and the majestic demonstration of His Almighty Power and Presence.  Consider three passages from the Old Testament as well as one from the Book of Hebrews which speaks of the overwhelming experience of divine visitation.

 

 

(Ex 19:26)  So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.

(Ex 19:19)  When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.

(Ex 20:18)  All the people perceived the thunder and lighting flashes and the sound fo the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance.

(Heb 12:21)  And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I AM FULL OF FEAR and trembling.”

 

This was a tremendous time, a terrifying time; and awesome time for God Himself had rent the heavens and come down.  And the people trembled with fear.  They were like Belshazzar whose hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together.  This same Awesome, Majestic God had come to visit John.  And he was hearing that same Holy voice, loud and awesome like the sound of a blasting trumpet.

 

Turn to Psalm 29, probably my favorite Psalm as it speaks of the glory and majesty of Almighty God.  (1) Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.  (2) Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in holy array.  (3) The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; The God of glory thunders, the LORD is over many waters.  (4) The voice of the LORD is powerful; The voice of the LORD is majestic.  (5) The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.  (6) He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.  (7) The voice of the LORD hews out flames of fire.  (8) The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; The LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.  (9) The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve and strips the forests bare; and in His temple everything says, “Glory!”  (10) The LORD sat as King at the flood; Yes, the LORD sits as King forever.  (11) The LORD will give strength to His people; the LORD will bless His people with peace.

 

This is the God we worship and love and adore.  This is the God who saved us and called us with a holy calling.  This God has set His love upon us, had poured out the blood of His Son on our behalf and has granted us a holy pardon for our sins.  It is He who has saved us and not we ourselves.  So bow before Him in worship and adoration singing the song of the four living creatures: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and who is to come, The Almighty!

 

 

 

 

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